PV panel for sea-going boat.

Lefty WrightLefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
A friend of mine is going to install a PV panel on his boat.

He has enough room for a KC 130 or similar size panel.

Are there any brands that can stand up to salt spay?

Comments

  • Bob McGovernBob McGovern Solar Expert Posts: 25
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    Sure. First thing would be to visit our gracious hosts (NAWS) and see what they sell.

    Easy way to sort out the marinized panels is to visit chandleries like West Marine, Defender, Mauri Pro, etc. Or just Google "boat solar panel". Once you find the best models, you can Google those and go price shopping. Watch out for the shipping costs, tho!

    A few other considerations: Rounded corners are really important on a boat; sharp edges cause chafe and injury. Your friend will have to choose between the strength and clarity of tempered glass and the weight savings & safety of plastic films. And all wiring & connections must be marinized as well; every year, many boats burn to their waterlines because someone used sub-standard wire or cheap connectors on their PV. May not be much volts, but the amps from a panel that size can really generate some heat.
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,962 ✭✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.
    every year, many boats burn to their waterlines because someone used sub-standard wire or cheap connectors on their PV. May not be much volts, but the amps from a panel that size can really generate some heat.

    Care to provide some links to backup this statement?. I have never once heard of a boat burning to the waterline due to a PV panel
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,639 admin
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    One "recall" I found--and is probably representative:
    October 12, 2000
    Hull ID # __________________
    Dear Hunter Passage 42 owner,
    Because of a fire onboard a 1994, 42' Passage, Hunter began an investigation of its wiring. We have come to several conclusions surrounding this matter which we feel should be passed on to you.
    From the information relayed to us, it appears that the boat was sitting unattended at the dock with the shore power connected and the inverter in the charge mode. It is unknown to us as to how long the boat was left un-attended or how long the inverters charging system had been activated. We do believe that at some point during the charging process a fire broke out inside of the engine / generator compartment on the inside of the boat. The fire damage prevents a definitive determination as to the true cause.

    After our initial inspection, we found several things that, in our opinion, may or may not have caused the fire but should be addressed.
    • A 100 amp alternator was added to the engine at some point and time. Unfortunately, when this was done only the alternator lead wire going to the isolator switch was upgraded to the proper size. The isolator jumper wires should have also been upgraded, as well. This would have prevented the opportunity for heat to buildup and possibly, slowly, deteriorate the wiring.
    • A solar panel was added to the vessel and its wiring harness was tied into the main charging system of the boat. There were no upgrades made to the vessel's original wiring system for this upgrade.
    • A wind generator was also added to the boat at some time and point. Again, its wiring harness was tied into the main charging wiring system of the boat with no upgrading of the original wiring. It was also left with no fuse protection.
    • Due to the damage caused by the fire we were unable to determine the true condition of the batteries. However, our best guess from the inspection is they may have not been properly maintained with internal water.
    • It may be possible that the lead wire from the battery start switch overheated due to one or all of the following reasons: (1) poorly maintained batteries, (2) overloaded wiring from upgrade equipment and / or (3) leaving the battery switch in the incorrect position while utilizing the inverters charging system for an excessive period of time.
    Based on the above, we have come to the conclusion that the charging leads and isolator wiring inside of this model boat may not be adequate for most of today's add-on equipment. Hunter Marine has chosen to offer a wiring upgrade to all P42 owners at no charge and pay for its installation. This upgrade would only be required on boats ranging in hull numbers from HUNP0001J990 through HUNP0180L495.

    Regardless, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU LEAVE YOUR BOAT UNATTENDED FOR ANY REASON WHILE THE DOCKSIDE POWER IS ATTACHED TO IT. WE ALSO DO NOT RECOMMEND USING THE INVERTERS BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEM DURING NIGHTTIME HOURS.

    We realize that due to their age, most of the P42's have seen many upgrades, some of which may have eliminated the inverter and / or isolator switch and their original wiring. Keeping this in mind, we ask that you please complete the attached form and return it in the self addressed stamped envelope to:
    Hunter Marine
    From a book:
    The Voyager's Handbook By Beth A. Leonard; page 265

    I went out in the the cockpit and opened up the cockpit locker. An acrid white smoke came pouring out. Evan turned off the engine immediately while I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the galley. And inspection revealed that the solar panel had shorted out. The boatyard that had installed the panel had led the wires directly to the battery bus bar without the protection of a fuse. The short had started a smoldering electrical fire.
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Bob McGovernBob McGovern Solar Expert Posts: 25
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    It's been discussed on Sailnet and CruisingWorld, usually as third-party reports -- I'll see if I can find a couple examples. Nearly always contributing factors, like no inline fuse or gasoline or solvents stored near the short. And not infrequently these were, shall we say, down-at-the-heels liveaboards or semi-abandoned hulks, such as litter Richardson's Bay in SF.

    BB: Ah yes -- Beth Leonard's is one of the anecdotes I was recalling. She is THE authority on passagemaking & has excellent material on electricity generation.
  • sv_makaisv_makai Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    It has been a while since I added to the conversation on this board but I am here very often reading.

    As for adding panels on a boat. We have 4 kyrocea 120's that have been aboard makai know for almost 5 years, 3 of which were cruising fulltime in the southern caribe and South America. They are not "marinized" as mentioned above but it is very import to use marine rated cable, connetectors, and recommendation by the ABYC to mazimize protection and longevity. Salt water can do major damage quickly which at best causes a reduction in output and at worst.....

    When i was orginally looking at westmarine and the like the prices for the exact same panels (model # and all) were more than twice the price. With 4 panels that is huge. I actually found the panels at another residential PV site similar to the hosts here.

    The point is everything westmarine sells is not necessarily marinized, but is a good place to start. Not all marine use items are actually marine rated, but with proper setup and construction they will more than do the job. But I do recommend using marine rated cables as they are tinned to prevent corrosion along the entire cable. Though they are much more expensive it is a false saving to use standard cabling. I got my anco wiring from a supplier and saved more than half off the westmarine cost. So determine what you need and hunt it can be found!
  • Bob McGovernBob McGovern Solar Expert Posts: 25
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.
    sv_makai wrote: »
    It has been a while since I added to the conversation on this board but I am here very often reading.

    As for adding panels on a boat. We have 4 kyrocea 120's that have been aboard makai know for almost 5 years, 3 of which were cruising fulltime in the southern caribe and South America. They are not "marinized" as mentioned above but it is very import to use marine rated cable, connetectors, and recommendation by the ABYC to mazimize protection and longevity. Salt water can do major damage quickly which at best causes a reduction in output and at worst.....

    When i was orginally looking at westmarine and the like the prices for the exact same panels (model # and all) were more than twice the price. With 4 panels that is huge. I actually found the panels at another residential PV site similar to the hosts here.

    The point is everything westmarine sells is not necessarily marinized, but is a good place to start. Not all marine use items are actually marine rated, but with proper setup and construction they will more than do the job. But I do recommend using marine rated cables as they are tinned to prevent corrosion along the entire cable. Though they are much more expensive it is a false saving to use standard cabling. I got my anco wiring from a supplier and saved more than half off the westmarine cost. So determine what you need and hunt it can be found!

    Great points all round. Many shorts and fires come from people using hardware store crimp-on connectors, or (God help us) 14/2 ROMEX to wire up their little PV panels. Wiring on boats can be incredibly hard to get to, inspect, or run new. Some people just hook PV panels up to any old unused wire (perhaps meant for nav equipment, or running lights) because it seems easier than fishing new cable. And they see the modest wattage and figure, "That's not so bad, small wire should be fine" -- not understanding the current entailed by a 12VDC system.

    Then there's DPO syndrome: "d***ed previous owner." Especially old sailboats have probably belonged to 3-4 other people, some of whom may have been a little shaky in the maintenance or electrical departments. It's not uncommon to pull out an old wire from its tangle and find three others spliced to it using duct tape, no kidding. DPO did that on mine: tape-spliced THE MAIN BATTERY CABLES before they got to the switch panel, and with no fuse on the battery side at all. Then he stuffed the mess underneath the hull liner and called it good.:grr

    So good advice, Makai. When adding PV to a boat, scan the ABYC regs, run all new marine wire, route it carefully, fuse it often, and label it for what it is. So the next owner won't hate you.:p
  • Lefty WrightLefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.
    sv_makai wrote: »
    We have 4 kyrocea 120's that have been aboard makai know for almost 5 years, 3 of which were cruising fulltime in the southern caribe and South America.

    That's good to know. Did you have to caulk the edges of the glass?

    The owner has installed a pushpit with brackets to mount a PV panel aft of the backstay. Because it will be up in the wind ( 5' above the cockpit sole) it will take some abuse from the wind so I don't think adjustable mounts are practical. Did you solve this?
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,431 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    And all wiring & connections must be marinized as well; every year, many boats burn to their waterlines because someone used sub-standard wire or cheap connectors on their PV.

    May not be much volts, but the amps from a panel that size can really generate some heat.

    It's not the Evil PV, it's homebrew wires that don't meet boat or even redneck trailer code.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • Bob McGovernBob McGovern Solar Expert Posts: 25
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.
    mike90045 wrote: »
    It's not the Evil PV, it's homebrew wires that don't meet boat or even redneck trailer code.

    Oh, I agree. Never meant to imply the panels themselves burn the boats. But electrical systems are chronic headaches on salt water vessels of all sizes, and PV panels make enuf amps to be dangerous. Seems some people are using non-marinized charge controllers too, which is another source of trouble. Salt water environments are awesomely corrosive. A crimped connection that was shiny as a new dime in Long Beach may be crusted green and spitting fire by Oahu.
  • sv_makaisv_makai Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    I didn't need to caulk the panels. After all this time there is no apparent issues with any water infiltration. Though i did coat the panel terminals with a dielectric water proof grease as an extra layer of protection.

    Our layout is different as Makai is a catamaran and we were able to mount all of our panels over the bimini without any chance of contact. though I filed the sharp edges nothing else was needed for safety.

    Agree with above that salt water is wicked bad, but if well thought out many problems can be reduced. Reducing expsoure to the elements for joints, locating them in easy to inspect places, and as mentioned the right parts will make the difference.

    I way oversized my cables, partially to reduce the electrical drop of the distance and partially for eventual upsizing. Made minimum number of spices in the cables, where possible.

    As for no marine rated equipment, it can be an issue but with proper care and installation is can be safe and useable. My controller is a BLue Sky solar boost 50. When intially researching there were no other MPPT controller avalaible and many of the marine rated PWMs had high failure rates and poor performance.

    There are several products that as a spray can reduce corrosion and protect the boards. But the equipment should installed in the driest place possible and where it can be inspected. After 5 years the box and board look like the day they were installed. But where possible marine rated devices all the way. A good ship management plan would note the extra attention required on the maintance and inspection schedule to help reduce any issues.

    After all this time and heavy use I would not change anything in the design, The only change is more power! I want 1kw next time!
  • Lefty WrightLefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    Thank you, Makai, that is just what I wanted to know.

    I was afraid water would seep into the panel and break the internal connections. Or that the aluminum framing would corrode.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,639 admin
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    Glass panels are pretty well sealed unless the glass or the backing is damaged... My guess where you will have problems is the junction box/where wiring enters the panels. Sealing those areas well (grease, anti corrosion compound, strain relieving wiring, splash shields, etc.) will help.

    There are flexible panels avaialble--but everywhere I have seen comments about them--the panels seem to only last 1-3 years or so when used on a boat. Flexible panels are not worth the cost (over the long term). But you have the issue of glass and the ease which it can be shattered (glass should be tempered / safety type glass--so less of a physical danger vs an untempered sheet of glass). Classic cost/benefit trade-offs.

    For the aluminum framing, using stainless steel hardware should help a lot (just follow the rules for bolting any aluminum railings, deck based equipment that you would normally use).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Lefty WrightLefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    Yes, Bill, I would use stainless fasteners.

    Or bronze or monel. But never brass. I once used a brass 1/4" bolt on my tiller stock and it lasted about a month before turning into copper sponge. Salt water makes the zinc in brass go away.

    You have to be careful choosing your stainless steel also. Some stainless alloys rust in a saltwater environment.

    I'm glad to hear that modern quality panels don't leak. The J box with it's terminal board and bypass diodes will require some care.

    I don't think caullking the box is a good idea. Everything on a boat flexes and eventually leaks. Since I will probably install this for my friend I will probably dope up the terminbal board with NoCrode and drill a couple of weep holes in the J box.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    be careful as weep holes can let it in as well as out. maybe a piece of cloth or sponge glued at at a small weep hole could do it?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,639 admin
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    Weep holes with splash / drip guards are probably the better solution--I would not put a sponge inside or at the hole--it would just hold moisture as the box "breaths" in and out with pressure and temperature changes.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    well i'm not too familiar with items for boats and you've got to admit it doesn't get any more humid than wet. i would not keep the piece of sponge inside for sure and we are talking about a humid environment to begin with, but maybe those splash guards bill mentioned would be better.
  • Lefty WrightLefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    Long term moisture is the problem. If someone would open up the J box in port and flush it out with fresh water every now and then there would be no problem.

    But no one does this.

    The J box will be facing down so I'll drill a couple of 1/8 " holes in the cover and tell my friend to check the inside once a month.

    It's an imperfect world.
  • Lefty WrightLefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Re: PV panel for sea-going boat.

    My friend went to West Marine and spent $1000 (U.S.) on a 130W PV panel and charge controller.

    This panel has a pigtail and plug instead of a J box and a plastic frame around the metal.

    I think he paid about $300 too much. But that's how chandleries are.
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